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A good read for a long flight
on 18 January 2013
These books (the Camelot series) are all easy to read, and the author has mastered the trick of writing a good ending which at the same time leaves the reader wanting more - profitable, no doubt. It's unfortunate that they all suffer from poor proof reading and editing, and this may affect your enjoyment. The text is littered with grammatical errors, missing or incorrect punctuation and typing errors. For example, we have "a time of quite", "what about king's you prick?" (sic - missing punctuation and incorrect apostrophe - which makes one wonder what the author really intended). There are silly errors such as "put" instead of "but". Most extraordinary of all is a reference to the difficulty which Guinevere has in "siring" an heir ... something which even in times of myth and legend would surely have been a little tricky for her. There are other instances of complete misuse of English, such as "we need to return to more conducive company". Conducive to what? I have no idea what word the author intended - congenial perhaps? Finally there is the usual problem that non-English authors have apparently no idea of the geography of England, and cannot be bothered to find out. On the other hand I suppose that realism is hardly essential in mythical settings, gigantic mountain ranges can be put down to poetic licence, and at least there are no solecisms as bad as the "Welsh" heroine of whom I read recently, who carried a National Health card and enjoyed double orders of blueberry pancakes for breakfast.
Rather more serious is the way in which nearly all the characters seem to be bi-polar, and suffer from wild mood swings which are only justifiable as a device to move the plot forward, or introduce the next sex scene. None of them, particularly the women, are drawn with any conviction, and their arbitrary emotional instability contributes to their lack of definition. Lancelot himself appears to have all the self-insight of a lemming. Although he frequently thinks and speaks in a generic modern jargon, he apparently does not even have a cod-psychological awareness of his own motivation. Indeed, the use of contemporary language and modes of thought is itself jarring, and when the characters lose track of one another, as they often do, one is sometimes tempted to wonder why they don't merely use their mobile phones to re-establish contact. It is notable that the first really engaging sequence in the books, which occurs when Tancred attempts to heal Lancelot from his mental illness at the start of book 3, abandons this stylistic anachronism and is written in a kind of sub-Tolkien style featuring Lancelot as Gollum. Consequently it works very much better that most of the surrounding story, and is genuinely moving.
Perhaps it is unfair to focus on these errors, which for most people will not detract from their enjoyment, and indeed, did not detract very much from mine, but on the other hand it would be no more than a few hours work to make the necessary corrections, (although the style is another matter, of course) and it may say something about the author's pride in her work that so much carelessness is evident in the final published versions. But again, that too may be unfair, since the books are never intended to be more than pulp fiction - at least, I hope not. None of it detracts from the fact that they are all a very good read, ideal for a long flight or train journey.